Empire Espresso

January 27, 2015

In need of a sweet treat and a strong espresso one dark winter day, I took myself down to Columbia City to check out Empire Espresso. I had heard about their waffle concoctions – all sorts of exciting topping combinations (lime and powdered sugar!), and their coffee (single-origin, made for hipsters). I also knew it would be a cozy and friendly place to get some work done, and I was lucky to come at a time when it wasn’t jam-packed.


I got my espresso plus the nutella banana waffle. The coffee was intense and gave me the boost I needed to chip away at my never-ending supply of work. The waffle was large they sure didn’t hold back on the bananas:


Which was fine, since ever since I visited Oaxaca (see my “on the road” page) I’ve been obsessed with banana-based desserts. And nutella always works for me! My only complaint was that the waffle, while perfectly fresh and not over or undercooked, was a bit on the heavy/salty side. It seemed like it was cornmeal based but I could be wrong. In any case, I would have preferred a lighter, fluffier, and sweeter waffle. Nevertheless, I enjoyed my overall experience here and I can see why this place is so popular!


December 20, 2014

Trove, a new “concept restaurant” on Cap Hill is unique and inventive, without being too gimmicky. It’s a four-part restaurant: noodle bar, beverage bar, BBQ restaurant, and ice cream parlor. I went to 3 out of 4 (skipping the noodles) and was pretty pleased but I’ll just focus on the dessert portion.


Ok, so maybe it’s a little gimmicky. The ice cream section of the restaurant group is themed like an ice cream truck. You can get the parfaits from their walk-up window, or order it for dessert in the restaurant. It being winter, I did the latter. The menu offers two versions of each parfait: a classic take and a Korean fusion take (the restaurant overall is Korean-fusion). For example, you can get a “new school” Snickers parfait: black sesame cake, miso caramel, and candied peanuts. I went with the “old school” Snickers, pictured on the left:


My friend got the root beer float parfait (new-school style). I ended up wishing I had tried the more innovative new-school version because mine was a little bland. I liked it, but I think Frozen Custard does it better. I’ll be back to try the new-school options when it warms up!


November 21, 2014

Not to be confused with 3.14 Bakery in West Seattle (which I have yet to visit), 314PIE is a food truck that has started appearing at the Cap Hill farmers market and serves both sweet and savory mini-pies. The truck is owned and managed by two guys, and these boys can cook!


I was tempted not only by the pies but cookies (almond chocolate chip) and the pie “fries” (strips of pie crust batter coated in cinnamon sugar). Naturally enough, I was also tempted by the pecan pie.



The cookie was good, although I see why walnuts are popular while almonds are rare in chocolate chip cookies. Walnuts have the right crunch and texture; almonds are too crunchy. Speaking of nuts, the pecan pie was good as well, although the crust was a little mealy and almost tasted like it was made from whole wheat flour. I would have preferred a flakey, short, delicate crust. As would most people. The pie fries were fun and tasty, in addition to being inexpensive and a perfect snacking size.




The London Plane

October 23, 2014

The London Plane, a new hip mercantile/bar/bakery/breakfast spot in Pioneer Square, took me back to the days when I used to haunt places like Balducci’s and Dean and Deluca in New York.  It’s clearly upscale, but not pretentious or trying too hard. A bright, clean, and spacious interior holds a restaurant, deli, flower stand, and bakery. I went for the latter, having no need for Dahlias at this time.



Behind the bakery counter were all kind of goodies. The prices weren’t cheap, but from what I could tell just by looking, they were fair. I liked the variety – there were tarts, croissants, cookies, bars, buns… I settled on some cookies and the cinnamon roll, which they heated up for me. I headed down the street to Umbria to eat it because it seems one of the only things The London Plane doesn’t provide is espresso.



Any annoyance I felt at not getting my much needed macchiato was offset with my first bite of this beauty. I liked that it wasn’t giant sized, not to mention dry, undercooked, too sweet, or not sweet enough (all common problems). That is, I loved it. Loved the pecans, the texture of the dough, the amount of goo… well done. Next up, the cookies:


The top ones are chocolate hazelnut, to the right are chocolate chips, and on the left are Mexican Wedding Cookies. All three types were delectable and my friends were happy with the crystals of salt sprinkled on top of the first two types (I found the salt topping a little much but loved the cookies nevertheless). My favorite was the Mexican Wedding Cookies, I usually enjoy these and they aren’t easy to find. These were light without feeling insubstantial, and with just the right amount of sugar. If I worked around Pioneer Square this place would be dangerous… but they need to get with the espresso program ASAP!


October 16, 2014

A Cap Hill cafe with a neighborhood feel? There aren’t a ton, but there is Barjot, (related to Joe Bar, also in Cap Hill and also with a neighborhood vibe). Although Barjot is only recently arrived on the scene, it’s already pretty popular with folks… and their dogs (there were about 5 when I visited).  There are freshly baked goodies as well as a limited selection of full breakfasts and lunch fare. They also do a mean espresso as well as fresh juice:


I started out with an excellent croissant, which tasted as good as it looked. Flakey, not doughy or dry, and just the right size for a pre-breakfast snack:


This tided me over until my breakfast arrived (it’s freshly made, so it does take a bit of time, especially if you get the baked eggs). I decided to get another dessert as my main breakfast – the bread pudding with lemon curd. It came with apples and blueberries, and the pudding and curd were both to die for.


This place gets an A+ in my book and I will be back, in spite of the fact I don’t live in the neighborhood.

Sod House Bakery

October 10, 2014

Lately I’m all about the micro-bakeries… that homemade taste that’s so hard to replicate in more industrial bakeries. I discovered Sod House Bakery on a recent visit to the U-District farmer’s market and was intrigued by the “pop-tarts” – pastries filled with fruit spread and topped with frosting. Much more tasty than the grocery store version, but not as good as their brownie.


Deeply cocoa-y with a silky texture, this was a brownie worth its calories. The baker claims to be a big fan of cinnamon buns, so I also walked away with one of those for my next-day’s breakfast. Good idea!!


Not over or undercooked, not overly sweet but still very indulgent, with just the right amount of cinnamon and frosting. Definitely one of the best I’ve had, and I’m picky about my buns! My only wish with Sod House is that they had a storefront so I could go there whenever I wanted… but then it might start tasting industrial.

Sweet and Fresh Bakery

August 30, 2014

When Mon Hei Bakery in the International District burned down, I had to start looking for a replacement spot to get my cocktail bun fix. I decided to try Sweet & Fresh Bakery, which has been around for years but is somewhat off the beaten path. It’s a pretty typical Chinese bakery, and is simple and unassuming in both atmosphere and food.



I ordered the coconut bun (I didn’t see cocktail buns) and the egg custard. The coconut bun was fine; sweet and light dough with the typical sweetened coconut filling. The custard was was really impressed me. It was definitely eggy, which was strange to my taste buds, but I was surprised at how much I enjoyed that taste and texture in a dessert.



The syrup (hidden at the bottom of the dish) helped sweeten the pudding without overdoing the job. Overall, I’d say well done Sweet & Fresh… but I still pine for my Mon Hei cocktail bun.


July 21, 2014

Pear Deli, IMO, is one of the most underrated lunch spots in Pike Place Market, but the nice thing about this is it’s rarely overly crowded. One of my favorite sandwiches, the grilled cheese with pear, is made fresh here while you wait, and while you wait, you might as well… eat dessert! Especially when there are amazing pear tarts with a perfect pastry/cake texture:


This was seriously one of the best pastries I’ve eaten in Seattle, and if you follow this blog, you know I eat a lot of pastries. In the name of research, I also grabbed a whoopee pie (for those who don’t know the joys of this Northeastern American dessert, it’s a pair of soft cakey cookies with sweet whipped cream in the middle).


The cookies were velvety and soft, and solidly cocoa in flavor. The cream was fresh, homemake, and with just the right amount of sweetness. The picture also doesn’t do it justice in size – this thing was the size of a hamburger. Overall, these were the best desserts I’ve had in a while, and were among the best you’ll find at the Market (and maybe even Seattle). Next time you’re at Pike Place, don’t pass Pear by without giving it a try!


July 12, 2014

There is no shortage of lunch spots in Pike Place Market, and Michou Deli stands out as being one of the best. It’s one of my favorite places to grab a sandwich or salad or sample some unique fare (you’ll find prepared salads using farro, quinoa, or couscous as a base). So I was a little surprised when I finally tried their desserts and found them to be less than I expected. Sure, they’re unusual (where else, other than the Mediterranean, can you find a Tunisian Doughnut?), and maybe my American sweet tooth couldn’t discern the more subtle textures and tastes of international sweets, but I found the snacks I tried to be dry and not terribly flavorful.



The big circle is the Tunisian Doughnut, which was harder and more breadlike than I was hoping. I thought it also could have used a little more sugar. The little circle is a zeppole, which is an Italian doughnut hole. Again, a lighter texture and more spice and/or sugar would have helped me love this (or maybe I am meant to dip it in coffee?). Finally, the bar cookie (chocolate with a vanilla crust) was actually a little too sweet for me.

Definitely try Michou for a take-out lunch, but I’d say get your desserts elsewhere… and there’s lots of places to choose from!


Yippie Pie Yay

June 16, 2014

I’m not a pie person. Real dessert to me means cake. That being said, I wasn’t about to turn down a snack from Yippie-Pie-Yay during a recent visit to the U-District Farmers Market. I had read about this cottage industry pie spot, but didn’t think I’d get the chance to try it until they opened up a brick and mortar location (which it looks like they may do in the near future). So I was pretty excited when I saw them at the farmer’s market (although I haven’t seen them there since!):


They had these tiny little buttermilk pies, which I had never heard of, but they sounded like a good idea. It was actually a GREAT idea, and the only problem was that I didn’t get more of them (or just get a full-sized pie). Creamy texture, sweet but with a tang, and a lovely buttery crust… I had to try more. So I went for the strawberry-rhubarb hand pie:


Again, full marks for flavor, texture, and fat. It didn’t even need to be warmed up or served a la mode – it stands alone. Honestly, even if you’re like me and not a huge fan of pies, these will not disappoint. My new favorite of all the Seattle pie shops (and there are a lot). I can’t wait for them to actually have a store!


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